If you haven’t heard yet, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be suspended for the first four games to start the 2015 NFL season. Insert Jimmy Garoppolo, who will start all four of those games and is suddenly on the fantasy football map. Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t a full season answer for your quarterback woes, but he certainly is in play for those first four weeks, both as a nice DFS play and a stop-gap play in lieu of Brady or another starter. So, the big question is, what can we expect from Garoppolo this season?
The second-year quarterback will have big shoes to hold down until Brady returns to the field and the schedule isn’t exactly ideal. Jimmy Garoppolo gets thrown into the fire right away in week one in the NFL kickoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bill Belichick has plenty of time to mold a game plan around Garoppolo, though and the Steelers defense has many issues that Belichick and Garoppolo can exploit. The Steelers were the 28th ranked defense against tight ends last season, and All-Pro Rob Gronkowski should be the primary target in this matchup. The problem will be matching Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense, point for point.
Garoppolo could be at risk of being under a lot of pressure in front of the nation in his first start. In addition, it’s possible Belichick and co. scale things back and run more than usual to help protect their young passer. Either way, Garoppolo may not be the safest play right away in his first ever start.
In week two things won’t get easier for Garoppolo as the Patriots travel to take on a nasty Buffalo Bills defense. This will be the toughest defense Garoppolo will face while filling in for Tom Brady, while the ever advantageous Rex Ryan will surely have a game plan perfectly equipped to get in the young passer’s head.
As good as the Buffalo Bills defense was last year, they had one weakness in 2014, and that was defending number two wide receivers. It is possible Brandon LaFell could become the primary target in week two and help Garoppolo bust a few big plays. The Bills routinely struggled to score points last season, too, so the Patriots may opt to play smash mouth football and grit a win out. Of course, Buffalo’s run defense is about as stingy as they come, so odds are Garoppolo will have to take it to the air in this one.
Jimmy Garoppolo should have a little easier time against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week three. The Jaguars defense was ranked 29th against deep passes last year, mostly across the middle. If given time in the pocket, Garoppolo should be able to lean heavy on tight end Rob Gronkowski and find some success throwing the football. Jacksonville has improved over the past year at getting to the quarterback, but if there is a matchup to exploit with Jimmy Garoppolo, this has to be the one.
The last start Jimmy Garoppolo will (probably) make in 2015 will be against the Dallas Cowboys in week five. The Cowboys could be the best overall team Garoppolo will face as a starter, but their defense isn’t overly scary. Dallas does do a good job of limiting big plays and scoring, though, so I think Belichick will have a ball control game plan heading into week five and take his chances off play action looks. There is a good chance this is another grind it out game, but the Cowboys’ offense could force this one into a shootout in Texas, just as easily.
Overall, the fantasy impact for Garoppolo might come off somewhat overrated. He is obviously a talented quarterback with a terrific opportunity, but I don’t see him having the positive impact in these four games that many are projecting. That being said, Garoppolo is worth a shot if you’re hard up for an answer under center early in the year and for what it’s worth, I don’t see this impacting Gronkowski, as he will get his touches regardless and should be a safety net for Garoppolo.
DFS fantasy football is where the impact of Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be felt the most. I can see reasoning for rolling Garoppolo out in some DFS lineups, as he should have a cheap price tag starting out and with the right matchup, absolutely has a shot at hitting on big numbers once or twice. The preseason should give us a better indication of where to stand on Garoppolo leading the Patriots into the season, though, so be sure to keep tabs on him over the next month.